OGDEN — Like many schools around the country, Weber State is preparing to open early football camp Monday thanks to the NCAA’s adjustments to practice schedules.
But like many places in the United States, coronavirus cases are on the rise in Utah, including locally.
Since campus facilities re-opened June 8 for voluntary workouts, Weber State athletic director Tim Crompton told the Standard-Examiner that WSU’s pre-workout screening procedures have detected some positive COVID-19 cases among athletes.
Crompton declined to give the number of such positive cases. He characterized the number of positives as small and said screening procedures allowed the school to prevent any potential spread, which he said meant no disrupted access to facilities for other athletes.
There’s not a universal procedure for when a Weber State athlete tests positive for COVID-19. Rather, info about how the athlete contracted the virus and who might have been exposed informs the course of action.
“Our team physicians work closely with our local health department in determining how positive cases are handled,” Crompton said.
All people entering athletics facilities undergo screening on a daily basis, Crompton said. That includes an assessment questionnaire and temperature checks. Those with symptoms common for COVID-19 carriers are denied entry to facilities and are referred to physicians.
“We have been excited and were well-prepared to welcome our student-athletes back to campus,” Crompton said.
Since many football teams completed few to zero spring camp practices due to the pandemic — Weber State had just two practices in March — the NCAA approved an extended fall camp schedule ahead of the 2020 season.
For teams like WSU, scheduled to open the season on Sept. 5, allowable required hours for film and conditioning begin in a period from July 13 to 23.
From July 24 to Aug. 6, required hours can increase and a football can be used in walk-through settings. On Aug. 7, the usual fall camp schedule can begin.
But Monday’s required workouts come against a backdrop of increasing uncertainty. The Big Ten Conference announced Thursday that it is calling off all nonconference games for fall sports, a decision that could ripple throughout the country and down through the subdivisions of college football.
Meanwhile, the curve in Utah has not been flattened.
For the 2 1/2-month period beginning in mid-March — when the pandemic began — to the end of May, Utah’s coronavirus dashboard shows a total of 10,007 cases detected, with 118 deaths (about 1.5 deaths per day). The number of active cases on May 31 was 3,656.
In the shorter five-week period from June 1 to July 8, another 86 deaths were recorded (2.26 deaths per day) after an additional 17,349 cases, including 11,491 active cases on July 8.
In the Weber-Morgan Health Department jurisdiction, 304 cases were reported in the first 2 1/2 months of testing. Since June 1, another 1,092 were added — an increase to the daily rate of positive tests from four to 29.
With active cases ballooning and longterm effects of the virus unknown, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declined Thursday to institute a state-wide mask mandate.
Per a June 29 mask mandate for state-operated facilities, Weber State requires face coverings when indoors on campus.
In recent weeks, Weber State has promoted the sale of football season tickets on social media. The sports leagues currently playing games in the United States (professional golf, professional soccer, The Basketball Tournament) or preparing to play games starting in late July (MLB, NBA) or August (NHL) will happen in front of no fans.
“We are busy preparing for fall sports on a daily basis. We recognize that we will need to make adjustments for our fans as a result of COVID-19,” Crompton told the Standard-Examiner by email. “Adjustments may include symptom screening, changes in concessions, increased disinfecting and cleaning protocols, and physical distancing policies in the stands/seating.
“While it is difficult to announce a specific policy or procedure as of right now, we are preparing for different scenarios. Our athletic department continues to work with the leadership of our university, team physicians, and local officials to ensure a safe environment for our fans.”